April 25th, 2016
“Are you stalking a minor?” Sam asked me from the backseat.
“’Am I stalking a minor?’” I pulled my eyes off the two-story home with the basketball hoop hanging lopsided over the garage. I moved them onto the rear-view mirror where I could see her pretending to sleep in what was left of the early, purple morning. “Well, there a few words I would change before I really felt like I could answer that questions honestly.”
“Is this what you’re doing instead of going to work?”
“I’m going to work. I just might be a little late.”
“To the job you’re trying to save?”
“Is there something I can help you with?”
She stuck her arm between the side window frame against which she had pinned her fluffy pillow, the pillow she brought and never let me use even though I rest my head on a wadded sweater and she sleeps in my fucking Bronco. “I’m just trying to prepare what I’m going to say when a homicide detective asks me why I was seen in a creepy van parked outside the home of a murdered teenager.”
“Okay, first, it’s not a van. It’s a Ford Bronco. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that. Second, I’m not going to kill him or anybody else and I don’t know why that’s always a topic of conversation with you. I’ve had people literally trying to eat me for the better part of a year and only in the last month have I had to reassure anyone that I wasn’t going to kill anyone.”
“It’s because you didn’t have anyone to talk to.”
“Okay, sure,” I dismissed, looking back at the house.
“And this doesn’t have anything to do with the Ratfanger’s Disease or the ‘Eat-A-Dick’ trend, does it?”
The bedroom shortly above the basketball hoop went dark again.
The sickle-shaped laceration beneath my lip stung against the sharp morning air. I tried my best to keep my facial expressions to a minimum but once it started to ache there was no stopping the sensation to just grab my chin and rip away what skin remained. It caused my heart to push against my insides and my breathing become tight. It hurt and it tickled and pushed itself to the forefront of every thought until it didn’t anymore, for however long until it began again.
Thirty minutes earlier, before the bedroom light went out, Luis Vasquez had returned from his run, red and winded. I don’t know how long he had been gone, but he’d certainly put out more of an exercise than I had in a long time and I run for my life on a semi-professional level. At least I used to.
His shoulders were swollen, the size of old cobblestone that you would find paving the streets of a well-weathered village. Honestly, I’d slunk down in my seat a bit when he came around the corner, back onto his cul-de-sac. I didn’t even realize he wasn’t in the house when I first parked the car outside it.
Sam was dosing in the back until he appeared and aroused her from her dreamscape into the waking the world. The broad shoulders and brick-wall chest I had ignored until that point she was quick to point and did everything short of rolling down the window to hoot and holler. Once he was back inside his parent’s house, she quickly returned to sleep.
It was his bedroom light that shut off. He’d be leaving again shortly.
“Oh, I’m sorry, officer,” Sam began again. “You say you found the young boy’s genitals stuffed in his mouth and his body covered in tears? Well, I have no idea what happened but it sounds clear a very sick individual was involved.”
“How about you tell them that you were seen in a Ford Bronco – and do get that right or they’ll think you’re soft in the head – because you decided to start living in it with someone you think is a murderer for reasons unknown?”
“No, I probably won’t say that.” She took in a deep breath through her nose, opened her eyes and sat up. Rocking to left and right, she bent her arms and pushed them up over her head. I tried not to be caught looking at her stomach, perfectly cut and yet so wonderfully soft, as this morning warm-up unfolded. “Let me see your hand.”
I reached my arm back and she grabbed my wrist. Ripping bandage-tape away meant taking what was left of my arm-hair with it. Unable to bring myself to watch again, I felt the delicate waffle-pattern of the gauze pull away and the ends of muscle fibers begin to spark in the early air. “How does it look?” I asked.
“It’s never going to look good,” she said, reaching into the center console where I’d been keeping the bandages. “So are you going to jump him outside of his home on the way to school?”
“No!” I couldn’t help but be a bit defensive.
“It’s probably the only place you’ll get him alone.”
“I’m not afraid to – Wait, what makes you say that?”
“Look at him. He’s a linebacker. Those idiots are always together.”
“That’s a generalization.”
“When I was in high school I was never with only one football player at a time.”
“That explains a lot about how you turned out.”
I felt her hand leave my wrist, saw her shoulder pull back in the rear-view mirror and caught her hand with my left. “Please don’t slap me,” I said.
“’Please don’t slap me,’” she repeated back.
“The way you rely on violence to solve all your problems is not nearly as charming as you think.” She finished changing my bandage, wrapping the tape around so tightly I knew it’d be cutting off the circulation before long.
“Dick, he’s twice your size.”
“Size doesn’t matter.”
“Dick, size matters.”
“That not what I – Why is it ever little thing with you?”
She bumped into me with her shoulder as she climbed over the center console and into the front passenger seat, “I was about to say the same thing to you.” Luis stepped out the front door, his backpack over one amazing shoulder which, even as I straight man I have to admit, got the blood boiling. “He walks to school? Oh, Dick, this is your chance. Get him.” He walked past the black hatchback in the driveway and the line of mailboxes beyond that. “Get him. Get him, get him, get him, get him!” He passed the Bronco, caught my eye. “Kill!” Sam exclaimed with some amusement.
Luis continued back the way he’d come this morning.
Sam continued to chuckle well after he’d turned the corner.
“He’s twice your size, you know,” she said, settling down. “And he’d definitely have twice as many friends as you.”
My attention turned back to bite mark on my chin, how it looked in the mirror, how it just became my most recognizable feature. I remembered those moments, holding down that scrawny Rat in the parking lot, hoping Sam was going to get there in time just before he bit me. I couldn’t even hold him off. “Twice of zero is zero,” I said to her.
“I’m your friend,” she said without humor. I looked over at her, wondering if that would be the moment Sam finally made sense to me. “So, again… why did we just spend the morning parked outside a teenager’s house?”
I turned the engine over and put the car in drive, “I’ll tell you.”